Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 20, 2014

* El Salvador: “For me Romero is a man of God,” declared Pope Francis who eased the process for a possible beatification of assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez proposed legislation for a debt swap that would prevent a U.S. court ruling forcing Argentina into default.

* Venezuela: Police in Venezuela arrested at least thirteen people accused of smuggling goods across the closed border into Colombia.

* Puerto Rico: A recent Pew Research Center report found that Puerto Rico’s population fell between 2010 and 2013 with most residents leaving the island in order to “search for economic opportunity.”

Video Source – YouTube user interestmedia (“Oscar Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. He was assassinated on 24 March 1980 while celebrating the Eucharist” during the Salvadoran civil war.)

Online Sources – USA TODAY; El Universal; The Independent; BBC News

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 19, 2014

* Mexico: Environmental officials filed a criminal complaint against a company responsible for spilling ten million gallons of acids from a copper mine into two rivers.

* Uruguay: “I say to all the fans: don’t worry, I won’t do that again,” said Luis Suarez as he pledged not to repeat actions such as his infamous biting of an opponent at this year’s World Cup.

* Argentina: A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis was “deeply pained” over the deaths of three of the pontiff’s relatives in a car crash in Argentina.

* Colombia: A group of victims of Colombia’s armed conflict met with government representatives and FARC guerrilla envoys, and gave their full support to peace talks being held in Cuba.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – ABC News; The Guardian; The Latin Americanist; Al Jazeera; GlobalPost

Monday, August 18, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 18, 2014

* U.S.: A recent study concluded that Latino characters were represented in a scant 4.9% of movies released between 2007 and 2013 and “Latinos are the most likely to be sexualized on screen, with both male and female actors more apt to be asked to be partially or fully naked.”

* Brazil: The first poll since the death last Wednesday of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos showed incumbent Dilma Rousseff in a statistical tie in a hypothetical runoff against Campos' probable replacement, environmentalist Marina Silva.

* Ecuador: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced today that he plans to “soon” leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has resided in for the past two years.

* Chile: Ricardo Izurieta, the military general who succeeded the dictatorial rule of the late Augusto Pinochet, died Sunday at age 71.

Video Source – YouTube user MOVIECLIPS  (Scene from the 2011 ALMA Award-winning film "A Better Life").

Online Sources – The A.V. Club; NBC News; The Latin Americanist; The Huffington Post; Miami Herald

Friday, August 15, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 15, 2014

* Mexico: Several politicos allied to Mexico’s ruling National Action Party have come under fire after they were shown on video partying with alleged escorts.

* Uruguay: The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld most of the punishment against Luis Suarez for biting an opponent at the World Cup but allowed him to train and play in friendly matches with new club F.C. Barcelona.

* Brazil: The board of banana giant Chiquita rejected a $611 million takeover bid from a pair of Brazilian firms and found it to be “inadequate.”

* Haiti: U.N. peacekeepers clashed with supporters of ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide upset that the former leader could be arrested on charges of money laundering and drug trafficking,

Video Source – YouTube user Reporte Indigo

Online Sources – ABC News; SBS; The Latin Americanist; LAHT; BBC Sport

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Argentina's San Lorenzo Wins Copa Libertadores

This summer the Argentine men's national team fought their way to the World Cup championship match although they ultimately lost to a strong German side. Similarly, Argentine soccer club San Lorenzo battled their way to the final series of the Copa Libertadores. Unlike their more heralded compatriots, however, El Ciclón did not stumble at the final hurdle.

San Lorenzo captured the crown of South America's top soccer tournament following a 1-0 win at home in Buenos Aires on Wednesday night. The 2-1 aggregate win over Paraguayan minnows Nacional gave San Lorenzo it's first major title in the team's 106-year history.

Following last week's tie in Asuncion, both teams looked for the advantage to cap their surprising runs in the Libertadores.  The Paraguayan side was stronger in the first half hour and were unlucky when a shot by Derlis Orue rang off the goalpost. But the breakthrough came in the 36th minute against the run of play when Nacional defender Ramón Coronel handled the ball in the penalty box. Midfielder Néstor Ortigoza cooly converted the penalty kick past goalkeeper Ignacio Don.

Nacional subsequently pressed forward looking for the equalizer and nearly got it before halftime via a blast from Julián Benítez.  The second half saw San Lorenzo hold off wave after wave of attacks by the visiting side.  Substitute Brian Montenegro nearly leveled the score with a golden chance in the 77th minute. Yet bolstered by a boisterous and raucous crowd of 43,000 plus at El Nuevo Gasometro, San Lorenzo held on for a memorable victory.

"This is a historic triumph, we are immensely happy," San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza said following the final whistle.

"The team was very nervous, we didn't play very well, especially in the first half...We had to win it and we did. We found a way," added the Argentine-born coach who previously guided Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito in 2008 to the only triumph of an Ecuadorian team at the Libertadores.

Daily Headlines: August 14, 2014

* Argentina: In the latest chapter of Argentina’s legal battle with holdout creditors, cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich defied a contempt of court threat and claimed, “The proper conditions do not exist to negotiate.”

* Latin America: A International Labor Organization report found that approximately 35 million young Latin Americans are affected by the region’s unemployment crisis including some 27 million who “work in the underground economy with no rights or benefits.”

* Venezuela: Colombia’s foreign minister contradicted claims made by the neighboring Venezuelan government regarding the nightly closing of their 1400-mile border in order to prevent smuggling of gasoline and food.

* Chile: Will a major earthquake more powerful than an 8.2-magnitude tremor that occurred in April soon strike in Chile?

Video Source – Bloomberg News via YouTube

Online Sources – The Latin Americanist; Reuters; Xinhua; Smithsonian; Xinhua

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brazil: Presidential Hopeful Dies in Plane Crash

Eduardo Campos, a former Brazilian governor and candidate looking to unseat President Dilma Rousseff in October’s election, died today in a plane crash.

The plane Campos had been traveling in reportedly crashed in bad weather as it prepared to land in Sao Paulo state.  According to local authorities, all seven people aboard the Cessna 560XL aircraft passed away including Campos and “several campaign officials”.

“I was getting ready to open the school when I heard a loud noise of a jet approaching,” said eyewitness Vinicius Lopes.  “Then the plane hit the building.  It looked like a war scene.”

Donizete Maguila, Jr., another eyewitness who was returning back from work in the port city of Santos where the accident occurred, recalled when he found the corpse of Campos.

“I saw his clear eyes and tried to clean his face.  At the time I couldn’t believe…I saw the candidate,” he said.

The Recife-born Campos served as a federal legislator on three occasions and was the Science and Technology Minister under then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.  With the support of Lula, Campos won election as Governor of Pernambuco and held that post for two terms.  In his seven years as governor, Campos oversaw a drop in the rates of violence, improvements in education standards and pushing for major infrastructure projects.  Yet it was Pernambuco’s strong economic growth that has been his main political strong point against Rousseff who has been criticized for Brazil’s shaky economy.

Recent polls placed the centrist hopeful from the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) in a distant third place behind the leftist Rousseff and moderate conservative candidate Aecio Neves.  Yet Campos could’ve played a key role in a potential Rousseff-Neves runoff by providing an official endorsement and support to one of the two frontrunners. (Neves said he was “immensely saddened” by news of the crash while Rousseff announced that she would suspend campaigning for the next three days).

Daily Headlines: August 13, 2014

* Ecuador: At least two people are dead and several more are trapped by a landslide caused by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Quito, Ecuador yesterday.
* Chile: A group of armed gunmen stole over $10 million from an armored vehicle in what has been reported as the largest robbery in the Chile's history.

* Brazil: Officials at the Sao Paulo state Education Department have come under fire after posting a job opening that requires female applicants to undergo genealogical exams.

* Colombia: According to the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights more than 400,000 Colombian refugees affected by armed conflict have fled to other countries.

Video Source – NTDTV via YouTube

Online Sources – The Guardian; BBC News; The Huffington Post; Colombia Reports

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Seeking Help

On Monday actor and comedian Robin Williams passed away at the age of 63. Authorities in California mentioned today that Williams apparently committed suicide by hanging himself at his home.

Despite Williams’ humorous contributions in films like “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” as well as TV sitcoms “Mork & Mindy” and “The Crazy Ones”, his publicist admitted that he had been battling severe depression and had been seeking treatment for it. (So far it’s unknown if depression played any factor at all into Williams’ death).

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, (NAMI), depression affects Latinos more than any other ethnic group in the U.S.  Within the Latino community, the organization found that Latinas along with U.S. born and long-term residents are especially vulnerable to depression.  Furthermore, a study published this year concluded that “idea of acculturation, of navigating different cultural contexts” could explain why Latinos are particularly susceptible to depression.

Many Latinos unfortunately fail to seek help due to several factors including the cultural stigma attached to mental illness and the lack of Spanish-speaking and Latino mental health care specialists.

“When Latinos think of mental illness, they just think one thing: loco,” said Clara Morato, the mother of a child who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 18.  “[Latinos] don't want to be labeled, and they don't want to be labeled as the family with a relative who's crazy,” she added.

As a young Latino who had trouble facing his own mental demons many years ago I fully understand the crushing anxiety of loneliness and believing that there was nothing that could be done.  Yet there is a light at the end of the tunnel and better days can lie ahead with the aid of friend, loved ones and mental health care professionals.

If you or anyone you know may be suffering from depression, please know that you can seek help without fear of shame or embarrassment. 

Si usted sufre de depresión o conzces alguien afectado por la depresión por favor tenga en mente que puedes solicitar ayuda sin miedo de pena o humillación.

Video Source – National Institute of Mental Health via YouTube

Online Sources – Suicide Prevention Hotline (English and Spanish); CNN; Latin Post; BBC News; National Alliance of Mental Illness

Daily Headlines: August 12, 2014 (Updated)

* Haiti: Officials vowed to capture more than 300 inmates who recently broke out of a Haitian prison including convicted kidnapping ring leader Clifford Brandt.

Update: Police recaptured Brandt near the Haiti-Dominican Republic border but most of the escaped inmates are still fugitives.
* Honduras: At least eight people died in a shootout on Saturday night reportedly caused by gang violence between the Mara 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha groups.

* U.S.: A three-judge federal panel started hearing legal arguments yesterday over the possible gerrymandering of Congressional districts that hurt Latino voters in Texas.

* Ecuador: The Ecuadorian capital city of Quito was named as “South America's Leading Destination” at an event deemed as the “Academy Awards of the tourism industry.”

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources including Update – ABC News; Miami Herald; Latina; LAHT; Bloomberg

Monday, August 11, 2014

Daily Headlines: August 11, 2014

* Cuba: A letter from 300 U.S. rabbis sent to President Barack Obama last week urged the White House to push more strongly for the “immediate release” of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

* Argentina: Judge Thomas Griesa, the U.S. magistrate overseeing the legal tug-of-war between the Argentine government and holdout creditors, threatened the South American country’s representatives with contempt of court.
* Brazil: A poll conducted roughly ten weeks before Brazil’s presidential election found that incumbent Dilma Rousseff’s strong lead over her rivals remains unchanged and she would win a possible run-off over her closest opponents.

* Bolivia: Researchers concluded that a recently discovered yellow bat in Bolivia is its own species and will receive the scientific name of Myotis midastactus.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube (“Former U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Gross has said goodbye to his family after being held in Cuban prison for the past five years.”)

Online Sources – ABC News; Bloomberg; CNN; National Geographic; The Latin Americanist

Friday, August 1, 2014

Judge Blasts Argentina Over Debt Default

The U.S. justice overseeing Argentina's legal battle with holdout creditors blasted the South American country's government for defaulting on its debt.

“What occurred this week did not extinguish or reduce the obligations of the Republic of Argentina,” said District Judge Thomas Griesa at a court hearing on Friday.

"I'm counting on the Republic of Argentina to take steps in order to stop spreading deceitful information," added the magistrate who was reportedly in a very "stern" mood at the hearing.

Griesa ordered the Argentine government in June to pay holdouts some $1.5 billion in unpaid debts related to the country's $100 billion default in 2001. He barred Argentina from paying bondholders who participated in prior exchanges unless it pays holdouts at the same time.

On Wednesday Argentina defaulted for a second time in twelve years after the government and creditors could not reach a last minute agreement. This action could lead bondholders to claim an amount equal to Argentina’s foreign currency reserves (about $29 billion).

Griesa also ordered at Friday's hearing that both sides in the debate continue talks with a mediator he appoined, Daniel Pollack. That might still occur but within a climate of great mistrust after Jonathan Blackman, Argentina's lead lawyer, said a statement released by Pollack on Wednesday was "harmful and prejudiced to the republic and the impact on the market."

Griesa's actions have been criticized by Argentine officials as excessive, and consider the holdouts as "vulture funds" that purchased bonds at a low price and are eagerly looking to cash in.

“We can’t hold any positive expectations because (Griesa) has always held the view of someone who is partial,” Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told reporters in Buenos Aires prior to today's hearing.

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez said in a televised speech on Thursday, “the world keeps moving and Argentina too” yet the markets earlier that day did not seem to agree with her. The Argentine peso fell 2.6% on the black market in early afternoon trading while the Merval stock index tumbled by 8.4%.

The default comes at an inopportune time for an Argentine economy that officially slipped into recession in June. Fernandez might also suffer negative consequences as opposition politicos have blamed her administration for "lying" during talks with the holdouts.

The repercussions of a default on the global economy ld a group of more than 100 economists including Nobel laureate Robert Solow to urge the U.S. Congress to "act now and seek legislative solutions to mitigate the harmful impact of the court’s ruling."

Online Spurces - The Globe and Mail; Reuters; Diario La Nacion; Bloomberg; LAHT; MercoPress;

Daily Headlines: August 1, 2014

* Uruguay: A group of former Philip Morris workers in Uruguay have become activists supporting the country’s strict anti-tobacco measures.

* Dominican Republic: A former senior official of the Dominican Republic’s counternarcotics agency pled guilty to charges that he collaborated with drug traffickers.

* Brazil: The higher than forecast growth of the U.S. economy reportedly led to a 1.1% drop in the value of Brazil’s currency on Wednesday.

* Guatemala: An estimated 40,000 families have been affected by a drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon and that has also led to damages to corn crops.

Video Source – YouTube user Latest news

Online Sources – LAHT; Bloomberg; Reuters; Rappler

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Daily Headlines: July 31, 2014

* Guatemala: The remains of thirty-one indigenous people killed during Guatemala’s brutal civil war thirty-two years ago received a proper burial yesterday.

* Latin America: The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its “deep disappointment” at El Salvador, Peru and Chile for withdrawing their respective ambassadors due to the conflict in Gaza.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos warned the FARC that he could end peace talks as a result of several recent attacks on infrastructure allegedly by the rebels.

* Venezuela: The U.S. State Department announced that it would revoke visas held by Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses relating to political violence this year.

Video Source – YouTube user WITNESS (Video made in 2000 and 2001).

Online Sources – Yahoo News; Reuters; LAHT;

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Today's Video - Slamming the Brakes

Argentina will likely fall into default after last-minute talks between government officials and creditors failed to reach in agreement.  But will a potential default doom the Argentine government and lead to a major economic crisis in the country? Or is the pessimism misplaced and an overreaction?  Perhaps the following video on Buenos Aires car dealerships can provide us with some clues:

Video Source - Bloomberg News via YouTube

Online Sources - Reuters; The Guardian; Quartz

Paraguayan Minnows Head to Libertadores Finals

Numerous Latin American sides such as Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica shined at the recently World Cup in Brazil and performed beyond expectations.  Yet the Cinderella stories have also taken place in South America’s premier soccer club tournament: the Copa Libertadores.

Paraguayan team Nacional continued their fairy tale run by winning 2-1 in the semifinal aggregate score against Uruguay’s Defensor Sporting. 

The Asuncion-based side entered Tuesday’s semifinal second leg in Montevideo having won 2-0 in the first leg last week.  From the beginning of the match Defensor Sporting constantly pressured their rivals with the hope of at least tying up the aggregate score.  Nacional goalkeeper Ignacio Don came up big on several occasions especially in the first half when he denied a one-on-one chance by opposing forward Giorgian De Arrascaeta. Despite several good Defensor chances in the opening half Don’s teammates also stood tough yet De Arrascaeta got a measure of revenge when he assisted on Adrian Luna’s goal in the 55th minute. 

Following Luna’s tap-in, the Uruguayan team came very close to scoring the key second goal that would’ve tied the series and sent the semifinal to a penalty shootout.  Numerous Defensor attacks rang off the goalposts including a Felipe Gedoz blast that would’ve beaten Don but missed by inches and a Robert Herrera point-blank shot that hit the crossbar.  In the end, Nacional would hold on by slimmest of margins and the 110-year-old club booked their ticket to the Libertadores finals for the first time in team history.

This is unique, unbelievable. I hope Paraguayan people can be altogether in the name of the country,” said Don following the final whistle.

“I've always dreamed of playing in professional football and then the Copa Libertadores. Now, I'm playing the finals because we've been warriors on the field,” he added about the unfashionable team that normally plays at a stadium with maximum seating for 4000 spectators.